Northern Ireland

Father of Dáithí Mac Gabhann speaks on hurtful impact of hate letter

Dáithí Mac Gabhann and his father Máirtín outside the Houses of Parliament in February. Picture: Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire.
Dáithí Mac Gabhann and his father Máirtín outside the Houses of Parliament in February. Picture: Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire.

THE father of Dáithí Mac Gabhann has spoken of the hurtful impact of receiving sectarian hate mail in the post.

It follows a successful campaign by the west Belfast family to pass a law on organ donation in Westminster that will improve the six-year-old's chances of getting a heart transplant.

Speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan programme, Máirtín Mac Gabhann described finding the anonymous handwritten letter on Wednesday which police have said contains sectarian remarks.

"The reason why we started the campaign was to try to protect Dáithí, I've always spoke about the helplessness of not being able to protect Dáithí from his condition," he said.

"So, when your thoughts are always to protect your family and you get this disgusting letter through the door.

"It was handwritten in capital letters. Just everything about it made us uncomfortable."

Quoting the letter, he said: "Repent your sins, untaint your poor little boy. Just in case he lives, let him grow up free and happy, unburdened by the Irish language and its horrible connotations of murder and hate... you are using your son to promote yourselves just as you have used your son to promote your extreme political views.

"To name your son such an awful name is child abuse."

Mr Mac Gabhann said the letter continued for two pages, leaving him to wonder if it was "a sick joke."

Having left party politics out of the campaign, Mr Mac Gabhann said he was relieved the letter was only generically addressed to Dáithí's parents in Ballymurphy.

"It's just horrible thinking there are people like out there. But the outpouring support that we have received since we released the statement."

He said this included Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O'Neill, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and the Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler.

"It's great to see we're loved, Dáithí's loved, the support is there for the campaign. Unfortunately it just takes one idiot really to bring everything down."

He added he was proud to send his son to an Irish speaking school, where he was "flourishing" with two languages.

"It's just really saddening to read the letter, what it does to you really is when you hear your gate going or your door raps, you're thinking 'is this person coming to your house?'.

"When people are sending you these hateful words, it's heartbreaking to be honest.

"We've been through so much over the last couple of years, we're a very strong family and I put that statement out yesterday as a warning, we will not tolerate any of this nonsense.

"If there's any more, we've been told by the police it will be treated as harassment."